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Manjiro, The Man Who Discovered America

by Hisakazu Kaneko

This is a story of Manjiro Nakahama alias John Mung, a fisherman's boy who was shipwrecked and rescued by the John Howland, a New Bedford whaling ship, from an un charted island in the Pacific in 1841 when, incidentally, Herman Melville, author of Moby Dick, was sailing in another New Bedford whaling ship, the Acushnet, in the same waters. Under the fatherly care of the captain of the whaling ship, Manjiro was taken to America as the first Japanese to be educated and to live there, and later he managed to return to his native land, then pursuing a rigorous isolation policy which prohibited anyone from entering the country on pain of death. He became a "Voice in the wilderness" and helped open his countrymen's eyes to modern civilization, playing no small part in aiding his country's gradual evolution from feudalism to democracy. More than a century has elapsed since then, but the spirit of adventure and progress and the virtues of kindness and goodwill as exemplified in his life are alive today.

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